News & InfoEP StoreAcademySupportCommunityProducts by Country
Blog Home

Safety on Set Amid Changing COVID-19 Guidelines

What productions should know as they head back to work
June 9, 2021

Staff Writer

actors on set

Since the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), along with the entertainment industry’s major unions and guilds, have been working towards enabling productions to resume safely and responsibly. In September of 2020, their efforts culminated in a formal Return to Work Agreement (RTW) that established comprehensive protocols to protect employees as productions returned following the shutdown, contributing to the economic recovery of the industry and the country.

Throughout the pandemic, the industry also has to ensure productions remain in compliance with state and local guidelines. Since the beginning of 2021, those guidelines have begun to shift as more Americans become vaccinated, lockdowns are lifted, and states decide to reopen. The result is mixed; some protocols haven’t changed – like the RTW agreement, which expires June 30th – and some are continually evolving.

With that in mind, we wanted to help by looking at ongoing recommendations, how states are reopening and updating guidelines, and how productions can keep track of all the changes with EP’s COVID-19 Reopening Tracker.

What does the AMPTP’s Return-to-Work agreement require?

Until its expiration on June 30th (it is, however, up for renegotiation) the RTW agreement continues to be the touchstone for productions’ safety, operating conditions, testing, training, sick leave and quarantine pay. Given its importance, here’s a review of its main guidelines, which remain applicable until it is extended or renegotiated:

  • Heightened cleaning and disinfection procedures must be in place.
  • Meals and snacks must be packaged and wrapped individually. Food may not be served buffet style.
  • Contact should be minimized by, for example, limiting shared equipment and transitioning to touch-less, digital documents.
  • A COVID-19 compliance supervisor, responsible for the safety and enforcement of these guidelines, must be trained and assigned to each production. A stipend of $20 per hour of training is available if it occurs outside a regular workday.
  • Employees must receive a PCR diagnostic test within 72 hours of their first day of work – or two rapid tests within 48 hours.
  • The frequency of testing after the initial pre-work screening is determined by the organization of the workforce in four zones, defined by the frequency of interactions they have with co-workers.

Zone A: All performers and background workers. If working five days or more in a week, these individuals must be tested three times (one PCR, two rapid tests). If working less than five days, testing should occur once within 72 hours before each day of work.

Zone B: Employees on hot sets who are near others without personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks or face shields, or need to work within six feet of others for longer than 15 minutes. PCR testing is required once per week, or alternatively, two rapid tests.

Zone C: Employees who wear PPE at all times, are only around others wearing PPE, and never work closer than 6 feet to someone. PCR testing is required every two weeks.

Zone D: All other workers, such as publicists, post-production employees, set designers, costume department, and others. After initial pre-employment tests, no further periodic testing is needed– unless if required to enter any of the above zones.

Note: Producers are encouraged to limit contact further by creating “pods” within zones.

  • A Health Assessment Survey is required from on-set employees at the start of each day and may be submitted electronically or in person.
  • Productions must pay a $250 stipend to employees receiving tests on non-workdays.
  • Quarantine pay is made available for cases where, for example, actors or crew arrive at shooting locations where they must self-isolate for up to two weeks before starting work.
  • Up to 10 days of paid sick leave (no more than $750 per day) is offered to those experiencing an “Eligible COVID-19 Event.” An “event” is defined as an individual (or their family member) testing positive for COVID-19, being asked by a producer to self-isolate after being near someone with COVID-19, or needing to care for children or the elderly.

How can productions track changing COVID guidelines?

Productions are not just guided by the RTW agreement, but by ever-changing federal, state and city-level protocols. There are CDC guidelines to adhere to, although they can change weekly and may not necessarily affect productions in every state. Because some COVID-19 decisions are left to individual states, that means there is no consensus – especially around the question of reopening, something that’s critical to productions moving forward.

Some states consider hospital rates, immunization rates, COVID-19 case numbers, other factors, or all of the above, before deciding to reopen. Some states have already set firm dates for reopening (such as California and Illinois scheduled to reopen in June), while some still have not (New York and New Jersey). Some states are already open and don’t require masks (Georgia and Louisiana), some are open but do require masks (Nevada and West Virginia).

The complex and changing landscape of local, state, federal, and industry-specific guidelines is the reason EP has created the COVID-19 Reopening Tracker. Designed to consolidate key information impacting production locations across the United States, the tracker provides accurate and timely information regarding all COVID-related travel restrictions, stay-at-home orders, and reopening protocols for each state and key filming jurisdiction so productions can resume safely and operate in compliance.

In order to reflect sometimes day-to-day changes, the tracker is updated every 14 days to list the most current information about federal, state, and city-level COVID-19-related ordinances and protocols. It also tracks entertainment industry union reports and agreements – something that will be especially critical for whatever changes may be made to the RTW agreement after its expiration in June.

For more information, be sure to check out our Master Series Webinar on the Return-to-Work Agreement and stay up to date on changing guidelines with the COVID-19 Reopening Tracker.

Topic: COVID-19

Related Content

EP Blog_SQUARE_filmmaking in new mexico

Forging the Future of Filmmaking in New Mexico

As the film industry expands in the Southwest, New Mexico leads the region as top destination thanks to...
Topic: Spotlight
AMPTP and  Unions Update  the Industry  Return-to-Work  Agreement

AMPTP and Unions Update the Industry Return-to-Work Agreement

AMPTP and industry unions revised the Return-to-Work Agreement, effective May 1, 2022
EP Blog_SQUARE_Fighting Hollywood Stereotypes-TTEI

Fighting Stereotypes and Rethinking Representation

How TTIE is advancing authentic storytelling in Hollywood by empowering historically excluded writers and...

Contracting in a COVID-19 World  

The pandemic has affected how UK production companies contract crew. Here’s how to reduce the impact of...

Georgia Proposes Capping and Prohibiting Sale of Film Tax Credits

The changes, if signed into law, would cap the amount Georgia hands out in film and TV tax credits at $900...
EP Newsroom-Thumbnail-Portland Business Journal

How Oregon’s updated film incentive law could boost the local economy

A new Oregon film and media incentive law could draw more movie productions to the state.
2022 Budgeting-sq

Budgeting for 2022: A Production Accountant's Guide

EP's Payroll Tax, Production Incentives, and Business Development experts explain how inflation,...
Master Series: Budgeting for 2022-1

Budgeting for 2022: What Productions Need to Know

From unemployment taxes and worker's compensation to the price of labor and materials, production costs...

Film Commission Report Highlights Covid Costs as Production Ramps Up

Covid-compliance measures impact production budgets, estimating $90 million or more
Streaming platform on tablet device

The Evolution of Residuals: How Streaming Changed the Model

Understanding how residuals payments are calculated for new content on streaming platforms.
Los Angeles Times logo-sq

Explaining Hollywood: How to get a job as a production accountant

Mark Goldstein speaks to the LA Times about the high demand for production accountants

Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Festival 2022 Winners Include ‘Please Baby Please,’ ‘Mars One’

‘Please Baby Please’ and ‘Mars One’ among winners of the 40th Anniversary Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film...
dollar signs representing digital crowdfunding

The Beginner’s Guide to Crowdfunding

How filmmakers can leverage the power of social networks and online platforms to build buzz and secure...
Mount Hood, Oregon

Building on Oregon’s Cinema Legacy

How improved tax Incentives, job training, and production infrastructure is expanding the filmmaking...
5 Master Series panelists discussing Atlantic Canada production incentives-square

Production Incentives Update: Atlantic Canada

Learn how productions can benefit from newly expanded incentives in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland & Labrador,...
EP Blog_SQUARE_Wes Hagen

Meet the Location Manager

A conversation with award-winning location manager Wes Hagen ('Ozark,' 'Hidden Figures.')
EP Blog_Jesse Wente

Supporting Indigenous Storytellers of Canada

How the Indigenous Screen Office (ISO) offers advocacy and funding for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis...
Topic: Canada
Sian Richards and Queen Latifah-square

A Face Kit for Every Skin Tone

Hollywood makeup artist Siân Richards is transforming the makeup industry for actors of every shade.
Jennifer Liscio

Spotlight: Jennifer Liscio, VP of Legal Affairs and Tax Incentives

Meet EP's Canadian legal affairs and tax incentives domain expert, Jennifer Liscio, and learn how she’s...
EP Blog_SQUARE-Historical content and new media

Residuals and the Streaming Model

How residuals apply to historical content on new media platforms.
Oklahoma route 66 sign

A New Frontier in Filmmaking

Oklahoma is becoming a production destination, thanks to new incentives and infrastructure programs.

Terms to Include in UK Crew Contracts

Common terms which studios and production companies include in their UK crew contracts.
Topic: UK

The UK GDPR and how Productions can Reduce their Exposure - Q&A with Sheridans

Sheridans’ Associate Krishan Neelendra answers key UK GDPR questions from production companies and...
Topic: UK
KJ Lamb and Simon Donovan

Empowering the Next Wave of Production Accountants

The EP Production Portal team was delighted to participate in the biannual Netflix Assistant Production...
cell phone with sticky note stating sign here

Six e-Consent Myths (and Why They’re Not True)

Sheridans Associate, Sarmad Saleh, debunks some common e-consent myths.
Topic: Legal
recycling conversation

Sustainability in Production: Q&A with Nikki Saunders

Nikki Saunders on sustainable filming practices, COVID-19, and why carbon offsetting isn’t a...
EP Blog_The Race to Net Zero is On for Big Studios

The Race to Net Zero is On for Big Studios

Film and television studios are embracing the green movement in a big way. Here’s what you can expect to...
Master Series Panel-Solving the crew shortage

Solving the Crew Shortage

Learn how EP Academy, the Georgia Film Academy, Reel Works, the New Mexico Film Office, and others, are...
EP Blog_SQUARE_meet the cinematographer-dan-laustsen

Meet the Cinematographer

A conversation with Dan Laustsen ('John Wick', 'Nightmare Alley').
EP Newsroom-Thumbnail-480-the olympian

More Movies Could Soon be Filmed in WA as Inslee OKs Film Incentives Passed by Legislature

The law will provide tax breaks for filmmakers looking to make movies in Washington
EP Blog_SQUARE-Tips for tax day

Tips for Tax Day 2022

Your ultimate tax filing checklist - the deadline this year is Monday, April 18th!
EP Blog_Marge Dean

Opening Career Doors

How WIA President, Marge Dean, is shaping the future of animation and empowering underrepresented genders
Master Series Women in Animation-thumbnail

Women in Animation: A 3D View

Marge Dean, Mandy Tankenson, and other women leaders from across animation come together to celebrate...
EP Blog-proud to support-square

Proud to Support: Celebrating Client Nominations at the 94th Academy Awards

A look at the evolution of the Oscars and the notable films powered by Entertainment Partners technology.
Bradley Cooper-nightmare alley

Meet the Assistant Director

A conversation with Myron Hoffert ('Nightmare Alley')
International Film Financing panel-featured

Film Financing Explained: International Financing

International production experts discuss how producers can utilize financing systems outside of the US,...
EP Blog_SQUARE-Sound Mixer-Lora Hirschberg

Meet the Sound Mixer

A conversation with Oscar-winning re-recording mixer, Lora Hirschberg ('Inception', Skywalker Sound)
Digging Out of a Deficit-featured

Digging Out of a Deficit: What to Expect in the Second Quarter of 2022

Federal and State Unemployment Insurance rates are rising. Learn how these changes will affect 2022 and...

Russian Invasion Hits Ukrainian Production Industry Just Starting to Go International

"Ukraine was just starting to open up to the world, now everything has closed up again."
International Financing-John Hadity-ft

The Beginner’s Guide to International Film Financing

What to know before you begin an international financing plan
Site Selection Magazine logo-sq

The Stage is Set

Puerto Rico Beckons to Film & TV Production Industry

Meet the Executive Producer

A conversation with Mike Drake ('Just Mercy') on the path to becoming and EP, and the role of social...
Los Angeles Times logo-sq

Why the Cherokee Nation is Offering Rebates to Film in Oklahoma

Joseph Chianese speaks to the LA Times on new incentive
New York City Requires Paid Time Off for Parents/Guardians to Vaccinate Kids Against COVID-19

New York City Requires Paid Time Off for Parents/Guardians to Vaccinate Kids Against COVID-19

New York City enacted a new law that requires employers to provide four hours of paid leave to employees...
California Updates Requirements for COVID-19 Exposure Notification and Reporting Requirements at the Workplace

California Updates Requirements for COVID-19 Exposure Notification and Reporting Requirements at the Workplace

On October 5, 2021, California enacted AB 654, which immediately updated the COVID-19 exposure...
Cal/OSHA Readopts Emergency Temporary Standards, Effective January 14, 2022

Cal/OSHA Readopts Emergency Temporary Standards, Effective January 14, 2022

While the readopted ETS still incorporates a myriad of the same safety protocols that appeared in the...
New York City Vaccine Mandate on Private Employers

New York City Vaccine Mandate on Private Employers

Effective December 27, 2021, New York City implemented a new mandate on private employers to require all...
EP Blog_SQUARE_Island Incentives

A Ticket to Paradise

Island Incentives Bring Productions Ashore

Meet the Set Decorator

A Conversation with Claire Kaufman ('Little Women')

35 Production Accounting Terms You Should Know

Ready to test your production accounting vocabulary knowledge? See how many of these 35 common terms you...
Future-of-production-virtual stages

The Future of Film and Television Production

Virtual stages, remote production offices, and other advances in technology drive the evolution of...
New York City Imposes Mandatory Vaccination Requirement On Private Employers

New York City Imposes Mandatory Vaccination Requirement On Private Employers

Starting December 27, 2021, workers in New York City must provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to...

Creating a Winter Wonderland

How ‘Elf’ Production Designer, Rusty Smith, Produces the Perfect Snowy Scenes for Film and Television

Meet the Editor

‘Chucky’ editors Randy Bricker and Shiran Amir on navigating the entertainment industry and how they...

Payroll & Finances

PayrollResidualsSmartStartNew SmartTimeProduction PortalEP On LocationSmartAccountingEP LiveSmartPOCASHétPayPaymaster Rate GuideEP Residency

Manage Multiple Productions

AssetHubSmartHubSmartHub Vault
Subscribe now

Be an industry insider with EP's
newsletters and alerts

LegalPrivacy NoticeSecurity
© 2022 Entertainment Partners. All rights reserved.